The Life You Can Save

P3. By donating to aid agencies, you can prevent suffering and death from lack of food, shelter and medical care, without sacrificing anything nearly as important.

So you're telling me that out of the thousands of charities and billions of dollars they use yearly, no person has ever been helped?

Are you suggesting that we (the Western World) should give everything other than what is absolutely VITAL to us, to charity so as to save the third world ?

The ideal is there to challenge us into thinking about our spending choices and how they could rather be used to help someone in desperate need. Maybe instead of getting a 100gig ipod, you get a 60gig and donate the $50 difference to UNICEF. You still get a great ipod and maybe save a few children. How great is that!? Ivan Seeking Staff Emeritus Science Advisor Gold Member The ideal is there to challenge us into thinking about our spending choices and how they could rather be used to help someone in desperate need. Maybe instead of getting a 100gig ipod, you get a 60gig and donate the$50 difference to UNICEF. You still get a great ipod and maybe save a few children. How great is that!?

The Christian tradition is to tithe, or "tenth". The idea being that one should give 10% of their income to either support their church [which presumably provides charitable services], or to help the poor directly.

It's been asserted that Singer's appeal to middle class Americans' guilt and the argument in post #82 are flawed, and that the conclusion that it's wrong to not donate to aid agencies given available disposable wealth is untenable.

I replied to your post #113 (my post #114) and haven't seen a reply wrt that from you yet.

A further consideration might be that insofar as giving to aid agencies has the effect of diverting focus from underlying problems and long term solutions (ie. masking the real moral and physical problems contributing to the continued suffering of impoverished people in various regions), then it might be argued that following Singer's moral directive would actually serve to perpetuate the suffering of impoverished people.

I don't feel, and never have felt, compelled to give to aid agencies. So far, your arguments don't persuade. But I'm open to any revision thereof, or a viewpoint that hasn't been considered yet. And there's always the possibility that I've missed something.

You, vis Singer and your logical argument, are assuming that it's within a person's power to save the life of a child on the other side of the world. But it isn't, unless the person has the means to directly affect that.

If you are suggesting that a donater must be the one injecting the child with a vaccine, that is absurd.

One example of a fantastic charity is Nothing But Nets http://www.nothingbutnets.net/ Donate $10 and you buy a kid a mosquito net. Every kid needs a net. Even as a tourist in east africa my hotel nets were riddled with holes. These are global-scale problems that require national and international governmental actions. They're not problems that will be solved by a few aid agencies whether millions of middle class Americans contribute to those agencies or not. The argument makes no claim to being the solution of the problem. The 'moral' action Singer is advocating (donation instead of candy bar) is not only not a moral requirement, but it also takes focus away from actions that might eventually contribute to a lasting solution. Civic actions that change governments and hence policies. Please indulge me in how donating more frequently takes the focus away from actions that might eventually contribute to a lasting solution. If you think DemRep Congo will all of a sudden change it's policies because they are receiving less aid, think again. I don't feel, and never have felt, compelled to give to aid agencies. So far, your arguments don't persuade. But I'm open to any revision thereof, or a viewpoint that hasn't been considered yet. And there's always the possibility that I've missed something. Maybe you suffer from too much self-interest Admin Maybe you suffer from too much self-interest Thomas before I sound too much like a jerk, I want to clarify that there are many other ways to help instead of donating money. So if you do other things, such as volunteering, then great. Volunteering is an even better way. Thomas before I sound too much like a jerk, I want to clarify that there are many other ways to help instead of donating money. So if you do other things, such as volunteering, then great. Volunteering is an even better way. You don't sound like a jerk at all. You sound like an empathetic, compassionate person. I'm thinking about, and formulating a reply to your previous post. But I think you are just posing here as usual, rather than wanting a serious debate. So nuff said. You mean , like you do, Apeiron , as usually ? Empty words ? Give me a break. This is all you are able to produce , empty words. Try harder. I know that you long from all your heart to see morality as a part of "human nature", but yeah, lets stick to what is scientifically known so far :P Last edited: Greg Bernhardt said: If you are suggesting that a donater must be the one injecting the child with a vaccine, that is absurd. Is it any more absurd than P3? Which says, "By donating to aid agencies, you can prevent suffering and death from lack of food, shelter and medical care ..." . Maybe you can (are), maybe you can't (aren't). You have no way of knowing. The only group that you can be sure that your donation helped is the aid agency itself. And maybe the person making the donation in some emotional way. Greg Bernhardt said: The argument makes no claim to being the solution of the problem. I understand. Giving to aid agencies, and feeling good 'enough' about that action, and hence doing nothing wrt civic actions that might contribute to changing governments and hence policies, might actually contribute to the perpetuation of the 'permanent temporary solutions' that are currently the de facto status quo. Greg Bernhardt said: Please indulge me in how donating more frequently takes the focus away from actions that might eventually contribute to a lasting solution. It doesn't necessarily, however I suspect that in most cases it does. But Singer's appeal and your argument don't address what might be done to help bring about a lasting solution. Greg Bernhardt said: Maybe you suffer from too much self-interest. Arguments to emotion aren't going to persuade me that I should give to aid agencies. In any case, they're invalid in the philosophy forum. Absolutely none of your comments are important in refuting the main argument which was refined here in this link https://www.physicsforums.com/showpost.php?p=3089441&postcount=82 But your whole logic in that post is flawed IMO. I pointed you an issue with the absolutism of good and bad, others pointed you other issues. I put you a personal question which you refused to answer so far, by what power you judge right or wrong , moral, immoral? Divine ? Social ? Personal ? For none can accept the absolute statements of normative morality, unless they come from God. Last edited: So when we are buying our luxuries and driving our SUVs (I have one) and flying around the globe, do we think of any consequences at all? No. So we should be able to give unconditionally where needed and trust that the outcome will be more beneficial and less damaging than what we are doing now. I'm not sure exactly what you meant by this reply to my post. My arguement was meant to refute Singer's statement that we should be morally compelled to donate in order to save any starving child immediately "in front" of you. I think this won't work. My post was not meant to refute the idea of donating at all, I do agree that we can and should do something. It's just that every dollar spent on temporary solutions like buy food and vaccine for people that will grow up to a very dysfunctional world, without doing anything to fix their world, is a dollar not spent right. If you follow Singer's argument there is no escaping the fact that you have to go for short term solutions because there's always another child to save. The reason that there is always another child to save, is because we aren't fixing the underlying problem, which is that they can't sustain themselves. regarding the Rawlsian arguement: I may seem like a good arguement to say: put yourself in the situation of a starving child and ask yourself, would you want to the world to buy you food? Yes, of course you would, but that does not make it the best way to act! I still advocate that it would be better if we collectively formed a long term plan to really fix their world, rather than keep perpetuating short term solutions, even if it means we have to look the other way if some people die now. alt Gold Member So you're telling me that out of the thousands of charities and billions of dollars they use yearly, no person has ever been helped? No, I'm not. I'm sure people have been helped. What I'm saying, is where do you draw the line, and is helping the third world, en masse, ultimately a good thing. The billions they (charities) use yearly ? OK - double it - triple it. WHAT THEN ? This is the point that's studiously avoided each time such a discussion comes up. WHAT THEN ? Those millions and millions that you have saved and made healthy and well, will reproduce, into an already burgeoning population. You've only shifted the problem a generation or two, and made it double or triple worse. That is, unless you introduce a mass sterilisation program, at which point, you may as well say you've taken over the role of the diety (or natural law, depending ..) The ideal is there to challenge us into thinking about our spending choices and how they could rather be used to help someone in desperate need. Maybe instead of getting a 100gig ipod, you get a 60gig and donate the$50 difference to UNICEF. You still get a great ipod and maybe save a few children. How great is that!?

But earlier, you said ..
Peter essentially argues that any money spent on non-essential items and services is morally wrong.

A 60g ipod is also non essential - heck, I honestly have never had any ipod at all, and am doing fine. The $130 dinner I just had with the missuss was non-essential; though very enjoyable. The luxury car I drive is non essential. This web-site is non-essential. It could realistically be argued that a very large percentage of what we spend in your country and mine, is non-essentail. By Peter's terms, all this is morally wrong. There is something very wrong with HIS proposition though, I reckon ! edited to insert 'dinner' after$130.

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It could realistically be argued that a very large percentage of what we spend in your country and mine, is non-essentail. By Peter's terms, all this is morally wrong.

There is something very wrong with HIS proposition though, I reckon !

edited to insert 'dinner' after \$130.

I think before he judges others based on his views of normative morality and taking a "holier than you" stance through this, Singer should quit his job at Princeton, and go do some up close and personal job in Central Africa. Actually save someone with his hands :P

Then, and only then, you can boost that you saved lives. Else, all can one say is "I had an extremely minor part with my donation to UNICEF to support their action in WahteverCountry which, according to their report, had the following consequences"

Also, Ill quote wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Singer)

Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, criticised Singer's appointment to the Princeton Faculty in a banquet speech at the organisation's national convention in July 2001, claiming that Singer's support for euthanizing disabled babies could lead to disabled older children and adults being valued less as well.[41]

If this is true that Singer justifies killing disabled babies, how does he conciliate this position with the position "you are immoral if you do not help poor ppl".

To mods: Im interesting in how Singer reconciles the two very different stances he has, one in which he seems to justify killing babies, and one in which he basically calls the whole western society immoral because "we do not donate our surplus". This is not an attack to his character.

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alt
Gold Member
I think before he judges others based on his views of normative morality and taking a "holier than you" stance through this, Singer should quit his job at Princeton, and go do some up close and personal job in Central Africa. Actually save someone with his hands :P

Then, and only then, you can boost that you saved lives. Else, all can one say is "I had an extremely minor part with my donation to UNICEF to support their action in WahteverCountry which, according to their report, had the following consequences"

Look, I must agree. Earlier on I said "Firstly, is HE giving all HIS money other than for non essentials, to the cause he promotes ? Has he given proof of this ? I mean ALL his money - not just some discretionary feely goody amount ?"

I haven't read his book, but from what's been posted here it seems that in fairly certain terms, he calls all our spending, other than on essential items, immoral.

That's a very strong, and IMO, offensive accusation, and entitles us to put the spotlight back on HIM, and ask him about ALL of his non-essential spending.

edit - grammar - error in '(un)certain'

alt
Gold Member
If this is true that Singer justifies killing disabled babies, how does he conciliate this position with the position "you are immoral if you do not help poor ppl".

Didn't see that first up - you must have just edited it in.

Wow ! Just .. WOW !

baywax
Gold Member
I think the best solution is to facilitate the self sufficiency of all nations.

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

(Chinese Proverb)

Some of the programs that install clean water wells in communities are an activity I support along with secular education. This seems the least "enabling" of charities and the least "commie".

If this is true that Singer justifies killing disabled babies, how does he conciliate this position with the position "you are immoral if you do not help poor ppl".

Singer is primarily a utilitarian (not a rights theorist) and believes in the reduction of suffering. If it is the case that he supports euthanasia, then he most likely does this because it allegedly causes less suffering than being severely disabled and supposedly an act of great mercy. This seems on the surface compatible with the position that not helping poor people is immoral, regardless of the truth of falsity of either of the two positions?

cobalt124
Gold Member
Yes. It wouldn't be in equilibrium.

How is that worse for the vulnerable.

Sad but true. And is not damaging to the individuals with the power.

A stance based purely on intellect. And I dispute it is not damaging to the individuals with the power.

Many "visionaries" where deluded by the same dream you have. That the reality is the one you choose, that humans are a blank slate on which you can write anything.

I'm not a visionary. I'm not choosing a reality. I'm saying if individuals give what they can freely, things will improve. I don't see an outcome. Just improvement. Humans can make choices.

One was the beloved archkiller Chairman Mao:

Unfortunately, this is not true. Humans are not blank slates. They come with mammalian brains modeled by evolution. With behaviors modulated by our biology.

Mao achieved nothing in this respect. Individuals have to decide for themselves.

What the heck is a free choice ?

Sloppy language from me here. I meant "rather than being made without regard to protecting a perceived status in a group".

Humans come with a part of the brain ... **modulates** our behaviors.

Not convinced science applies here to the extent you allow it. Hopefully I'll get time to open the thread.

And if you want to add more to this mess of "free will"...

My sloppy again. Don't want a discussion on free will, I don't think that would be very useful in this thread.

TO lighten up the thread, I present

Free will: The Man, The Nature, The Nurture , the Movie

One of my favourite films.

they need BILLIONS of dollars

They need help. Money alone won't do it.

we need to take down some of there terrible governments and incorporate better more Capitalistic ones that we can mentor.

Imposing this on people is wrong and won't (isn't) working. Capitalism won't (isn't) saving them. Democracy won't (isn't) saving them. Only individuals can save them.

We've already poured waste baskets of money and yet they die everyday when there's a drought their we can't afford the water to keep all of them hydrated

Maybe we are doing something wrong, for the wrong reasons.

when time comes mother nature will wipe you out.

Maybe we should stop doing it and leave the wiping out to Mother Nature.

I couldn't agree with you more and there are organizations out there you can support who do exactly this.

Monsanto is happy. Traditional farmers are screwed.

An example of a perceived good being done for the wrong reasons.

Their perspective seemed to be that the volunteers were much more valuable than the money.

I believe money alone will never fix it.

baywax
Gold Member
I believe money alone will never fix it.

I believe what you do with money can fix/f***up anything.

EnumaElish
Homework Helper
Singer is primarily a utilitarian (not a rights theorist) and believes in the reduction of suffering.
Does [URL [Broken] Choice[/url] reduce suffering? I am not going to say that "choosing one child over the other increases total suffering," but does it make an indent? When somewhere, someone is playing God (intentionally or not); are our choices between letting the boy die or letting the girl die?

Formally, what is his metric of utility? If it's maximin, then suffering is not indented a bit as long as one child dies (the worst off). (Unless the child is better off dying? -- which may be his case for euthanesia?) Clearly it's not maximin, but something of an additive function. But, it does seems to exclude "utility from candy." So it's an additive function over a predetermined set of goods ("necessities") and/or a set of individuals ("the starving"); and it ignores questions like "the agony of deciding who is going to die."

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chiro
I'd be very interested in seeing exactly how much money gets to the intended victims either through infrastructure projects, food, clean water and so on, instead of the money getting lost in so called "administration" and "other" costs.

"that a mind without a heart... is nothing. ..."
Memorable quotes for
The Chosen (1981)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0082175/quotes?qt1378244" [Broken]

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alt
Gold Member
I think the best solution is to facilitate the self sufficiency of all nations.

(Chinese Proverb)

Some of the programs that install clean water wells in communities are an activity I support along with secular education. This seems the least "enabling" of charities and the least "commie".

Nations are, by logical extention, self sufficient. Their populations gravitate to a level akin to what their financial or other resources dictate. Interferance with that by way of well meaning charity, only creates dependency, then higher population with more dependency.

Why on earth would we want to exacerbate the population levels of, say, China or India ?

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cobalt124
Gold Member
This post was a response to the OP where Singer starts off saying we are all immoral the second you spend your money on unnecessary items in light of the fact there are starving people on opposite side of the globe. In order to save face, and emancipate yourself from such allegations you have to actively give up your wealth until you descent to a poverty level equal to that of those currently in most need.

Morality doesn't need to be an issue. If we can consume without thinking about the morality/consequences, why can't we give where it is needed. I don't see how that leads us down a worse path than the one we are going down now.

So, what to do? Who's to say that Greg has not saved a number of lives already simply by starting this thread? Did that cost 5 dollars a month? No... er... well, lets pretend Greg doesn't own the site... Just stirring up a consciousness of these children and families in dire need is an act that goes a long way toward supporting their survival. I don't have the empirical evidence to back that up but it seem obvious that exposing the conditions, and discussing the people in danger leads to actions that serve to help them.

This is the issue for me. There is a sense that you don't need to know the ins and outs of outcomes. If you do something good good will come of it. I thinks it's true of PF in general. A good thing done for good reasons with the good outcomes here but not known initially. If a race hate (say) web site was opened, you can guarantee that no good would come from it. So I'm sorry, but in this somewhere is a sense of right and wrong, whether we like it or not, but at the end of the day, only individuals' choices can fix this. Maybe sanger is telling us this.

I find it morally repugnant that it would even be implied that it makes one a 'bad' person to allow natural selection to take place. Quite the opposite, I find that it takes a very strong person to set emotions aside and let a population reach equilibrium with both its habitat and social confines.

There is a difference between nature having its own way, and letting nature have its own way. I don't see this as strong at all.

He states he donates 70% of the profit from book sales. The argument is an ideal. It is meant to challenge us in thinking about our obligations to helping those trapped in extreme poverty.

And none of us want that challenge. I'm only committed to thinking about it at the moment.

and it doesn't even matter if you have ulterior reasons or not. The deed remains.

I would argue that it does matter, money alone does not fix this, and the ulterior motives inherent in the solutions so far tried will mean they will fail (as they are).

It is still natural selection, whatever you help them or not. Genes giving raise to over-altruistic behaviors or over-egoistic ones will be judged in time.

It's flawed to assume that by helping you somehow "interfere with natural selection".

Yes, natural selection will decide, we can't decide for it.

Then I sincerely hope "my side" is winning :D

Me too!

And males can choose to cease to want sex. Will it happen ?

You can tell me more about that one when I get round to opening the thread.

So when challenging Sanger we get biology, sociology, psychology, we get ESS and Dawkins, albeit very generally. And when challenging Sangers opponents in this thread we get five words. The answer clearly is the moral stance would be far closer to the opposite of the stance taken now.

Its been decades since rich nations started helping the less developed nations. But the disparity continues. That's one thing that makes me think a few "competitive" minds between our giving and the act of helping are slowing medical and educational progress in Africa, Indonesia, India and other stricken peoples.

Agreed.

Which is a flawed idea, but anyway, it's funny.

Glib.

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cobalt124
Gold Member
One thing about being human is that we can model and predict, which makes our evolutionary future rather less blind than you imply as "natural" here. We can look ahead and make choices.

But I think you are just posing here as usual, rather than wanting a serious debate. So nuff said.

More to think about. I'll reserve my judgement on the posing.

Firstly, is HE giving all HIS money other than for non essentials, to the cause he promotes ? Has he given proof of this ? I mean ALL his money - not just some discretionary feely goody amount ?

Sanger isn't asking for sacrifice IMO. He's asking for individuals to give unconditionally, where there is a need.

I saw a program recently - about the worst slum in India (forgot it's name, sorry) - people there were happier than most Westeners.

So it is possible that not giving unconditionally to a need can cause harm, i.e. the possessions make us less happy.

I know that you long from all your heart to see morality as a part of "human nature", but yeah, lets stick to what is scientifically known so far :P

Leaving issues like this primarily to science is a very dangerous tack to take.

I'm not sure exactly what you meant by this reply to my post. My arguement was meant to refute Singer's statement that we should be morally compelled to donate in order to save any starving child immediately "in front" of you. I think this won't work.

Agreed. Moral compulsion won't work. Choosing to give will, IMO, improve the situation.

It's just that every dollar spent on temporary solutions like buy food and vaccine for people that will grow up to a very dysfunctional world

I would say the world is already dysfunctional, and doesn't want to listen.

we aren't fixing the underlying problem, which is that they can't sustain themselves.

The underlying problem could be a dysfunctional world.

even if it means we have to look the other way if some people die now.

For the same reasons that we can't force individuals to give, we can't decide who is to die and when. The idea is to give what you can, freely, to a need. The moral issue then goes away.

Damn, just noticed he's called Singer, not Sanger.

EnumaElish